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Despite cloud-based CRM success, data silo issues remain

While cloud-based CRM tools are making inroads in bridging data silos, smaller, niche tools are becoming more necessary to solve data management challenges.

While cloud-based applications have improved the business of handing customer data, there are still data silos to address. CRM systems on their own can't bridge the gap and meet the challenge of pulling all the pieces together from various data sources to create a 360-degree view of the customer. Despite the promise of cloud-based CRM tools, maximizing their value in an increasingly fragmented market has become a daunting task.

If there is any doubt about the debilitating effects of data silos, consider that Gartner Inc.'s research indicated that Master data management (MDM) tools are critical to link customer data silos and provide a more comprehensive view of customers. The research indicated that companies that avoid MDM will derive erroneous results that annoy customers, resulting in a 25% reduction in potential revenue gains. 

Salesforce has garnered success based on the promise that customers can adopt it without falling prey to the data management issues that plagued legacy applications. Salesforce has done an impressive job positioning its cloud-based CRM solution as the center of the marketplace. It has also spawned a rapidly expanding universe of complementary Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions aimed at enhancing Salesforce's core capabilities. Hundreds of independent software vendors (ISVs) have posted their products on the AppExchange to bolster Salesforce's cloud-based CRM offering.

For instance, although Salesforce has promoted the power of its Customer Success Platform, also known as Salesforce1, a new segment of the market has emerged over the past few years to specifically offer customer success tools led by companies such as Gainsight, Totango, Bluenose and others. Even the subscription billing companies, ranging from Aria Systems to Zuora, claim they can ensure greater customer success by better administering the billing process.

An ecosystem to address data silos

The clearest indication of the magnitude of the growing data integration challenge is the fact that the largest players in the Salesforce partner ecosystem and the biggest exhibitors at its annual Dreamforce conference are the major integration services companies -- Accenture, Bluewolf, Cloud Sherpas, Deloitte and others. Salesforce is also surrounded by a wide assortment of data integration vendors, ranging from Informatica and Jitterbit to Scribe Software and SnapLogic.

A new segment of the market has emerged over the past few years to specifically offer customer success tools.

The ultimate goal is to enable organizations to access customer data at every stage of the customer lifecycle ("journey"), from the front-end marketing and sales interactions to the back-end customer support and billing functions. Yet, achieving this objective has been an elusive task.

A 2015 survey by Netskope found the average enterprise uses over 100 applications across marketing and CRM. Another study by Econsultancy found that nearly three quarters (74%) of the organizations surveyed found "moving data between systems" is among the most painful marketing challenges. Amazingly, a Bluewolf survey found that "70% of Salesforce users have to enter the same data into multiple systems." This is not only a time-consuming and costly process, it can also create clerical errors that can frustrate customers and employees alike.

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CRM in the cloud

The latest company to attack this problem is Azuqua. It recently unveiled "Azuqua for Customer Success" to remove the data siloes between the CRM, marketing automation, service and support applications. Azuqua's goal is to integrate these data sources so organizations can automate these workflows and deliver a more tightly coordinated customer experience.

Azuqua for Customer Success provides more than 40 application integrations and purpose-built workflows to pull together data from FullContact, Gainsight, Marketo, Salesforce, Workfront, Zendesk and 15 other ISVs. The company says its solution is the first in a series to address marketing, sales and service data integration and workflow issues. It is positioning these offerings as an integration platform as a service (iPaaS).

It is too early to tell if Azuqua's software will finally resolve application integration issues that have derailed business processes for a long time. But the company's entry into the market with the financial backing of Ignition Partners and Microsoft Ventures clearly indicates that the market is still longing for a better data integration solution.

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